As the major conference tournaments get rolling this week, remember the Quarterfinal Rule – any team that fails to advance past their conference tournament quarterfinal WILL NOT win the national championship. The are no exceptions to the Quarterfinal Rule. I’ll update this post as top teams are eliminated before their conference semifinals.
2023 Teams Eliminated from National Title Contention
It’s March and the tournaments have started playing! We held our team meeting at Buffalo Wild Wings eating saucy chicken and watching 35 big screen TVs with various games going on. This is the greatest time of the year!
While chatting, we saw an interesting tweet put out by a fellow CBB aficionado, @EvanMiya about Oral Roberts and thought that his claim deserved a little deeper look.
I went to a game last night just for fun. The teams are irrelevant for the purpose of this conversation; suffice to say that both were middling, neither has a shot at the NCAA tournament and none of it has implications of national merit. But man, it’s almost March and it’s college basketball, it was a blast! 15,590 fans just having a great time sending off the seniors and hoping for a shift in fortunes during the Conference Tournament.
The beauty of CBB is that anyone can be a Cinderella. As I watched the event, the home team played the best game of their season. They were balanced on offense, they shutdown the other team’s two main threats. They rebounded well, controlled their turnovers and staved off multiple run attempts of their foe. At one point they were up by 21 and I thought to myself, “Man, if they play like this, who knows, three good games in the conference tourney and they could slip into an automatic bid.” I was impressed and drinking the Kool-aid.
So your team is pretty good this year. Congrats. It’s still February and realistically there are 20 or so CBB squads out there that have a shot at making a run. Maybe even a deep run, a Cinderella run. So, what is the one thing that your team needs to be paying attention to right now? Indeed, what is one of the primary historical key indicators that if your team achieves now, you can confidently stand around that watercooler one month out and say, “Seriously, we have a shot to not only go to the Elite Eight, but this is the year we are a Final Four team!”
It’s simpler than you might think, and while it should be noted that by itself this indicator is not a fool proof identifier, it is incredibly common among Final Four participants. It is simply this:
An early exit for a top seed is losing in the first weekend of the tournament, or in other words failing to reach the Sweet 16.
Only 67% of 1-3 seeds reach the Sweet 16, so this happens often enough that you should at least consider it while making your picks. This year, we have 2 top-seeded teams that are likely not going to survive the first weekend (greater than 50% chance). Here are the most likely top-seeded teams to make an early exit.
A dark horse Final Four team is a 5+ seed that reaches the Final Four
Even though 83% of all Final Four teams have been seeded 1-4, 9 of the last 10 tournaments have had at least 1 5+ seed in the Final Four. The following teams have the best chances among this year’s “longshots.”
Bracket Buster definition: a 6+ seeded team that reaches the Elite 8
Most bracket fillers conservatively stick to the highest seeds when picking their Elite 8 teams, and rightly so – about 81% of all Elite 8 teams were 1-5 seeds. So when a 6+ seed reaches the Elite 8, most people’s brackets are busted.
Last tournament was the only one in the last 10 that did not have a bracket buster. Here are this year’s most likely Bracket Busters (teams with at least 10% chance):
Let’s call a Cinderella team a double-digit seed that reaches the Sweet 16. This means they would pull of at least one but probably two upsets in the first weekend and have glory and praise heaped upon them for the next week before they play in the Sweet 16. Almost every year, we see at least one Cinderella. Only the 1995 and 2007 tournaments didn’t have one. Last year there was one – the one that I predicted had the best chance – 12-seed Oregon.
Correctly identify a Cinderella team in your bracket, and you’ll not only look like a genius, but also increase your chances of winning your bracket pool. Here are this year’s most likely Cinderellas (i.e. teams with at least 10% chance or reaching the Sweet 16):
It sure is fun to correctly pick the inevitable First Round upsets. This year, both 11-Syracuse and 10-Rutgers are favorites to win their First Round games.
Unfortunately, the prospect of a 12-5 upset isn’t as high as it usually is. We can normally count on at least one. In 2019, we had three and the fourth 12-seed only lost by one! This year, it’s basically a 50/50 chance that we’ll have any.
Here are the double-digit teams with at least a 20% chance to win their First Round game:
Your chances of winning your bracket pool improve dramatically with the more correct Final Four picks you have. Historically, 61% of all Final Four teams have been a 1- or 2-seed. Here’s a look at the combined probability of each region having a 1- or 2-seed champ.